ECM Editorial: Dual credit choices for students essential

“School Choice” and Minnesota schools have been partners for several decades. This is the state that gave birth to charter schools, open enrollment and post-secondary options.

The state has promoted and developed high school courses that qualify for college credit, or more inclusively, post-secondary education credit. Many state high schools offer a wide selection of Advanced Placement courses, the International Baccalaureate program and College in the Schools courses.

Our technical colleges, community colleges and four-year institutions provide opportunities for high school students to take courses at their institutions while remaining enrolled in high school.

The ECM Editorial Board supports the expansion of quality shared-credit high school courses for our students and we encourage state officials to develop a systematic plan for expanded dual credit opportunities.

Choice of courses and/or school campus comes with added responsibility. Student interest is one element; planning for post-secondary education and career is the other.  Whether students are headed toward a technical-based career, a professional calling or pursuit of a specific talent or skill, looking out to the years immediately following high school is important.

You can both “live for the moment” and “plan for the future,” but anticipating “what comes next” is critical. High school courses or post-secondary options that share a high school/college credit can give a student a lift on the learning experience and decrease the cost of college. Dual credit courses, however, are more rigorous and require harder work and more preparation (even in the middle school years) and that need for preparation must also be anticipated.

Choice can range from “which school should I attend” to “which courses should I take.” Choice can allow the student to stay on the high school campus or attend the post-secondary campus.

There are now many pathways to successful learning through high school and beyond and there is room for many more. We think the total high school experience is of great value and importance for most students. Students who don’t want a compromised experience but want dual credit should be able to achieve both.

High school and college officials have to cooperate if students are to get the most out of both their high school and post-high school experience. As in any movement toward change institutional defenses can come into play. Protecting the home turf is a natural first reaction to change.

In Minnesota there is evidence of cooperation among secondary and post-secondary schools. We encourage that movement. The focus should be on student freedom to choose and opportunity to learn; not on the need to maintain the institution’s current mode of operation.

There are issues that school and state officials need to address. Schools are meant to be universal and accessible to all. Choice that leads to socio-economic segregation runs totally contrary to the purpose of education in a democratic/capitalist society. Education must serve as an equalizer providing opportunity and upper mobility to all. School, program and course selection needs to broaden and not limit that opportunity to all socio-economic groups.

Choice can come with expense that only some can afford especially the cost of transportation when multiple campuses are attended. The state needs to consider subsidies and/or transportation systems that carry these costs for families.

Choice can be limited by geography and the availability of post-secondary institutions.  We need to do more to bring the courses to students and not the students to the course or campus.

Technology based learning is a reality and its role in creating dual credit opportunities is both evolutionary and revolutionary. Students can currently access online PSEO courses that are offered by post-secondary institutions. School districts are creating their own distance learning options such as the new Anoka-Hennepin “StepAhead” High School that is designed as a full time, online high school with access to dual credit opportunities and available statewide.

We need to support a state plan for the further development of technology-supported education that will reach all areas of the state and help mitigate the disadvantages of geography.   High school, college and state officials should continue to provide more dual credit choices for students, we strongly believe. We recommend a state coordinated plan for further advancing shared courses between high school and post high school institutions and we recommend learning paths include industry certification programs that lead to employment.

 

– An opinion from the ECM Editorial Board

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